Journal of a Solitude

by May Sarton

Paperback, 1977




W W Norton & Co Ltd (1977), Edition: First Edition, 208 pages


May Sarton's parrot chatters away as Sarton looks out the window at the rain and contemplates returning to her "real" life-not friends, not even love, but writing. In her bravest and most revealing memoir, Sarton casts her keenly observant eye on both the interior and exterior worlds. She shares insights about everyday life in the quiet New Hampshire village of Nelson, the desire for friends, and need for solitude-both an exhilarating and terrifying state. She likens writing to "cracking open the inner world again," which sometimes plunges her into depression. She confesses her fears, her disappointments, her unresolved angers. Sarton's garden is her great, abiding joy, sustaining her through seasons of psychic and emotional pain. Journal of a Solitude is a moving and profound meditation on creativity, oneness with nature, and the courage it takes to be alone. Both uplifting and cathartic, it sweeps us along on Sarton's pilgrimage inward.… (more)


(196 ratings; 4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member parker793
A journal that is looking for honesty. Sarton is facing life in general, growing into her 60s, and trying to understand the most precious things around her. Friends, writers, lovers...mix up in a book that turns into a healing process. "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
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but by making the darkness conscious" in Jung's words (p.110). Worth reading for the peace of mind as well as the awareness that we are deeply rooted in the consciousness of our past.
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LibraryThing member maiadeb
A book of quiet. May Sarton has been a favorite for a long while and this book tops the list. I enjoy learning of her habits, thoughts, fears and dreams. This book led me to learn more about the woman.
LibraryThing member christinejoseph
@ Nelson, NH. her home
depression — her need of alone time —

"I am here alone for the first time in weeks," May Sarton begins this book, "to take up my 'real' life again at last. That is what is strange—that friends, even passionate love,are not my real life, unless there is time alone in which
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to explore what is happening or what has happened." In this journal, she says, "I hope to break through into the rough, rocky depths,to the matrix itself. There is violence there and anger never resolved. My need to be alone is balanced against my fear of what will happen when suddenly I enter the huge empty silence if I cannot find support there."
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LibraryThing member ireneadler
I remember how crushed I was to read in Sarton's authorized biography that Journal of a Solitude was really a work of fiction. The book is a reimagination of how Sarton would like to live rather than a journal of the life she actually lived. No matter. It's still a great read about the solitary
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life, and the role of solitude in creativity. I gave it four stars instead of five because I'm still smarting over the book not being "true."
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LibraryThing member the_hag
I got this one from Paperback Swap website on a lark…I saw it listed and said “what the heck.” I just had to read this because as I was reading various descriptions, I realized she was an older lady and I really just wanted to read this…she has over ten of them, the last one the year she
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died at 83. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Journal of Solitude was written in 1973, when I was two years old and published in 1977 (I would have been around 6 years old). I expected to get a kind of snap shot of a year in the early part of the 1970’s…and I did, but I also got so much more out of this. I enjoyed it much more than I ever thought and am looking forward to reading more of Sarton’s work…I have just received another that I hope to read later this month. I don’t know that I would recommend this, probably selectively to those people I know very well and might also get something out of this. I am very glad to have read it!
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LibraryThing member dbree007
An important book in finding yourself alone and loving every minute of it.
LibraryThing member debnance
I had been so looking forward to this book, but I was the tiniest bit disappointed in it. Seemed to be a lot of whining...just like me....
LibraryThing member voracia
This is a strange book. May Sarton is a writer/poet who lives alone in New England. While this is supposed to be the diary of a year in her solitary life, she sure has a lot of friends and visitors for being a self-proclaimed "solitude". She spends a lot of time gardening and caring for a stray cat
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and taking care of her bird. I wondered how she had money to go away and just live alone and write.

I could relate to the author's desire to spend time alone, because it often feels to me that to feel fulfilled as a writer or even a reader, I have to isolate myself and spend a lot of time--maybe too much time--in my head. Ms. Sarton writes, "That is what is strange--that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. yet I taste it fully only when I am alone here and the house and I resume old conversations." I too have often marveled that even the most exciting adventures only seem real to me when I can relive them in private, with time to think and reflect on my own. I too am an introvert like Ms. Sarton and times I feel like this: "For a long time now, every meeting with another human being has been a collision. I feel too much, sense too much, am exhausted by the reverberations after even the simplest conversation. But the deep collision is and has been with my unregenerate, tormenting, and tormented self. I have written every poem, every novel, for the same purpose--to find out what I think, to know where I stand. I am unable to become what I see. I feel like an inadequate machine, a machine that breaks down at crucial moments, grinds to a dreadful halt, 'won't go,' or, even worse, explodes in some innocent person's face."

The good thing about this book is that it details the life of a writer. I always like reading about writers and this book is no exception, although I hadn't heard of Ms. Sarton or her writings before I read this book. She comes across as arrogant and whiny at times, when she wonders why her works haven't won more recognition or popularity and she belittles the works of other writers. People who like nature and gardening would also like this book.

The bad thing about this book is that it has the tendency to become boring and repetitive. I pushed through and because it was a short book and I could relate to the parts about writing and living a solitary life. I finished it and enjoyed it for what it was but at this point I don't really have a desire to read anything else by Ms. Sarton. I give this book two and half stars.
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LibraryThing member kaulsu
I would have enjoyed this volume more had I not first read the Sarton biography by Peters, I think. Peters was so unforgiving of Sarton's human failings.

This volume doesn't minimize those shortcomings altogether, but they nevertheless remained always in the background as I read. I will read another
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volume, but not for a while. Too many other books stacked by my bed.
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LibraryThing member mahallett
perhaps a more difficult person than she portrayed herself. i empathized about gardening. the results are so great, the animals such a hateful nuisance, the work so tiring and sore-inducing that winter is a great reprieve. i often wondered why i persevered.
LibraryThing member rmaitzen
There were lots of things here that really interested me, from Sarton's analysis of her own often turbulent feelings to her comments on poetry, on women's lives, and on her meetings with Carolyn Heilbrun. Overall, I didn't enjoy it as much as I did Plant Dreaming Deep -- both, I think, show the
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good and bad of living alone, but there was something less satisfying about this one -- it felt more like something she set out to write than like something with its own integrity.
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LibraryThing member JBarringer
This was like reading a more articulate version of my own journals, maybe not the most interesting reading at times, but inspiring.
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
Savory, and best appreciated in smallish bits. The subtitle is "The intimate diary of a year in the life of a creative woman", and that's pretty fair truth in advertising. In 1972, at the age of 58, May Sarton was living alone in her home in New Hampshire, working on her poetry, assessing her life
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and Life in general (as she apparently was wont to do) in journal entries always intended to be shared. She speaks cautiously of certain people in her life, plumbing the depths of her own emotions while clearly trying to protect the privacy of some of those close to her. (She refers to her current "passionate love" as "X", for instance, and to an aspiring young poet who seeks her advice as "Z".) I found much of it very moving, and unsettlingly connected to me in many ways. I recognize her feelings and responses to life's routine situations, and her observations on the nature of writing are spot on. "I suppose I have written novels to find out what I thought about something and poems to find out what I felt about something." It's a bit discouraging, though, to read some of her sensible views on sexuality, for example, and to realize that as a society we still haven't quite got to where she was then. I expect I will revisit this journal, at least in parts, often. It has also prompted me to pick up the great long biography of Sarton by Margot Peters that's been sitting on my shelf for a while. May Sarton is one of those authors I should have known about 45 years ago, but did not discover until recently. Ah, well, "At any age, we grow by the enlarging of consciousness, by learning a new language, or a new art or craft...that implies a new way of looking at the universe."
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Original language


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Physical description

7.1 inches


0393008533 / 9780393008531
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